Recent reports of clown sightings at or near Georgia Southern University are unfounded, according to university officials.
While it may sound funny to some, a rash of reports across the southeastern part of the country have people with coulrophobia, or an extreme fear of clowns, shaking in their boots.
The clown sightings reported to GSU police on Sunday follow similar reports over the past few weeks, with people claiming to have seen clowns, some reportedly luring children with money, in several states across the United States, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to online reports by various news stations.
Despite numerous reported sightings by both adults and children, there have been no actual arrest reports of anyone dressed as a clown. However, according to the International Business Times online, authorities in Flomaton, Alabama, a city located just above the Florida border, arrested Makayla Smith, 22, and two juveniles last week in connection to what police believed were credible threats to students posted on social media by a "Flomo Klown" and "Shoota Cllown" Facebook page, according to the news site. Multiple schools were put on lockdown after the posts and phoned-in threats hinted that clowns would show up at the schools.
GSU officials released a statement on Sunday saying the reports of local clown sightings are "unfounded."
"On Sunday, Sept. 18, Georgia Southern University Police received multiple calls regarding possible clown sightings," the statement read. "Officers investigated the complaints, but there were no actual sightings of clowns by witnesses, therefore these complaints are unsubstantiated at this time."
When asked, Jennifer Wise, director of communications for GSU, would not specify whether the calls are considered pranks but reiterated that they are unsubstantiated.
A photo circulating on social media "appears to have been taken three years ago, and it is not associated with Georgia Southern University," the statement continued. "There are currently no eyewitness reports from Georgia Southern University. Georgia Southern University Police continue to look into these complaints."
There have been no other reported clown sightings in the county, said Bulloch County sheriff's Chief Deputy Jared Akins.
While officials did not immediately reply on Monday to calls seeking information about whether the Statesboro Police Department has received any calls about clown sightings, the department's Police-to-Citizen website, http://p2c.statesboroga.gov, shows no such calls reported over the past several days.
Anyone with information about alleged clown sightings on the GSU campus is asked to contact university police at (912) 478-5234 or through the anonymous tip line, Eagle Eye Witness, at http://bf.georgiasouthern.edu/publicsafety/prevention/eyewitness, Wise said.
Sightings in the Statesboro city limits may be reported to the Statesboro Police Department at (912) 764-9911, and any suspicious incidents in the rural county may be reported to the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office at (912) 764-8888.
Law enforcement officials remind the public that filing false reports is a crime.
Also, according to the website Justia, a source on U.S. law, "A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so."
Exceptions include wearing a mask on a traditional holiday or for employment, a theatrical production or a sporting activity such as a football game, as well as wearing a gas mask prescribed in emergency management drills and exercises or emergencies.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.